This is my sister at her last blood transfusion appointment
Last week I discussed how blood transfusions can be a life saving measure in instances where the sickled red blood cells need replacing and so are generally considered safe for patients. However, there are risks involved in blood transfusion for sickle cell patients that could be both mild and severe during or after the procedure.
For sickle cell patients, replacement or addition of red blood cells (known as simple or exchange transfusion) are the 2 types of blood transfusions required since these are the cells that become sickle shaped to cause complication and pain. A sickle cell patient can have either a simple transfusion which is used to deliver additional healthy red blood cells to the body or an exchange transfusion (which is what my sister gets once a month) and this type of transfusion exchanges the patient's sickle shaped blood cells with healthy ones - lowering the concentration of sickle cells without increasing blood viscosity.
Sometimes, complications show up immediately in blood transfusions while others may develop over time. Some of which include: developing a fever, allergic reactions or in more serious cases, developing acute immune hemolytic reaction. This happens if the body attacks the red blood cells in the blood received and is likely to happen during the transfusion or very shortly after. Other severe reactions include: delayed hemolytic reaction, anaphylactic reaction (which happens within minutes of transfusion and may be life threatening), blood borne infections, hemochromatosis aka iron overload among others. Patients may even suffer from what is known as Graft-versus-host disease and though this is considered extremely rare, it is fatal. It happens when the white blood cells in the new blood attack the bone marrow when the immune system is weakened.
Even though the above associated risks can be serious and life threatening, it is crucial to note that blood products used for transfusions are carefully screened, keeping the risk of infection low. Feel free to visit sickle cell anemia news to get better educated on the subject.
Always Love 💘